The immigrant puts at issue assumptions of inviolability of borders, territoriality of sovereignty, and exclusivity of citizenship – fundamental characteristics of the modern state. The immigrant calls into question cultural homogeneity, linguistic commonality, shared history, and security of identity – the key ideologies of the nation. This article explores these issues by locating them in spatial and temporal sites removed from the common foci of current immigration debates. Using three stories of migration from colonial and postcolonial South Asia, the first part of the article demonstrates that within the general context of empire and imperialism, the determinants and processes of migration are multiple, as borders are porous, identities flexible and sovereignties malleable. Recounting the story of post-migration existence of a particular South Asian community, the second part of the article demonstrates that the compatibility of the immigrant with the nation and the state is always partial, contingent and unstable.
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